By Abdi Ali
Published February 27, 2018
The inaugural award for African visual artists living and practising in Africa has announced its shortlist.
Those shortlisted for the Henrike Grohs Art Award that has been set up in memory of a Goethe-Institut staff who died in a terrorist attack in West Africa on March 13, 2016 are Em’kal Eyongakpa of Cameroon, Georgina Maxim of Zimbabwe and Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand of Togo.
The organisers of the award, Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg and the family of the late Henrike Grohs, say the winner shall be announced and awarded in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on March 3 and March 13, respectively.
Goethe-Institut says “Em’kal Eyongakpa is an intermedia artist who approaches the experienced, the unknown, as well as collective histories through a ritual use of repetition and transformation. His recent ideas draw from indigenous knowledge systems and aesthetics, ethnobotany, applied mycology as well as technology.”
“Georgina Maxim’s work,” Goethe-Institut says, “combines weaving, stitch work and the utilisation of found textiles creating objects that evade definition. The dresses are deconstructed, and at times reconstructed to find new ways of giving tribute to and reflection upon the person that owned the original garment.”
“In Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand’s sculptural and performance work, he plays with borders and mixes memories, materials and cultural references. Building on traditional Mina culture, his gaze on contemporary society is unique, sometimes ironic and often moving,” Goethe-Institut says.
The Henrike Grohs Art Award is a biennial prize that recognises the lifetime achievements of the former Head of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan, Henrike Grohs.
The aims of the prize, according to jury members–Koyo Kouoh, Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar, Senegal; Laurence Bonvin, Artist and representative of the Grohs family, Berlin, Germany; Raphael Chikukwa, Chief Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe and Simon Njami, Curator, Paris, France–are “strengthening artists and encouraging them in their quest for a world of togetherness and dialogue.”
But just who are these who appear on the shortlist?
Em’kal Eyongakpa was born in 1981 in Mamfe, Cameroon. His recent ideas increasingly draw from indigenous knowledge systems and aesthetics, ethnobotany, applied mycology as well as technology in his explorations of the personal and the universal. Eyongakpa is also known for self-organised community research projects and autonomous art hubs like KHaL!SHRINE in Yaoundé (2007-2012) and the recently launched sound art and music platform ɛfúkúyú. He holds degrees in Plant biology and Ecology from the University of Yaoundé and was a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.
Eyongakpa’s work has recently been exhibited at the Jakarta Biennale (2017), the 13th Sharjah Biennial (2017), La Biennale de Montreal (2016), the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016), the 9th and 10th Bamako Encounters (2011, 2015), the 10th Biennale de l’art africain contemporain, Dak’art (2012) and at several international art spaces and museums around the world.
Georgina Maxim was born in 1980 in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is known for both working as artist and curator with over a decade of arts management and curatorial practice. Together with two other artists (Misheck Masamvu and Gareth Nyandoro), she co-founded Village Unhu in 2012, an artist collective space that has been providing studio spaces, exhibitions, workshops and residency programs for artists – young and professional.
Georgina Maxim studies African Verbal and Visual Arts – Languages, Curation and Arts at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.
Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand is a student at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He shares his life and work between Lomé and Paris. Both his sculptural and performance work emanate from his own personal experiences. He plays with borders and mixes memories, materials and cultural references.
Building on traditional Mina culture, his gaze on contemporary society is unique, sometimes ironic and often moving. He is a recipient of the Dauphine Prize for Contemporary Art, the Young Talent Revelation Prize for Plastic Arts ADAGP as well as the Aurige Finance and the Amis des Beaux-Arts et Juvenars-IESA Prize.
His work will be displayed at Du Salon Du Dessin in Paris (March 23 – 25, 2018), as part of a group exhibition at Anne de Villepoix Gallery during the first half of 2018 and in a solo show at Vincent Sator Gallery in April and May 2019.